Wednesday, 27 February 2013

OMG - David Bowie AND Tilda Swinton VS Floria Sigismondi

Despite being quite an avid fan of The Bowie I found the video for his recent track, Where Are We Now? a bit lackluster. I therefore didn't pay too much attention when The Stars (Are Out Tonight) was released a few days ago. Oh my! What was I thinking? Not only does the amazing Tilda Swinton play the wife of the suburbanised Man Who Fell to Earth, the video is directed by the utterly mental Floria Sigisondi.

Leaving aside the genius of Ziggy's creator, I haven't seen much by Ms Sigismondi of late so it was thrilling to see her back in fine form. She rose to prominence in the late 90s as a fashion photographer and as the director of several seminal videos for Marilyn Manson. She built on Manson's existing interest in decay, prosthetics and religious iconography and took it to the next level with her trademark high-contrast jittering, vintage-film look. I have a rare copy of her book Redemption showcasing her stills from her shoots alongside her fashion editorial work.

Aesthetically The Stars... begins rater conventionally but Sigismondi's vision runs riot as the suburban reality of Bowie and Swinton crumbles. The alter-egos from Bowie's past begin to creep insidiously into his life as transgendered versions of the singer. Swinton is shawn of her permed locks to take on the more androgynous form she is famous for. Their house becomes a Lynch-ian nightmare of cavorting starlets and raw-roast dinners culminating in the realities inverting.

I can't wait to see what else Bowie is cooking-up (or just leaving raw).

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The genius of Brian Muir

I had not heard of Brian Muir until a friend linked to his site last week. Mr Muir has been the 'go to guy' for sculpture (particularly for sets) in the movie industry since the late 70s. He began his career on a middling budget sci-fi movie that was based on old pulp reels - a kind of western in space. Fortuitously that film turned out to be Star Wars. From there his CV looks like a roll-call of the best big-budget movies you could compile; Alien, Clash of the Titans, Excalibur, The Dark Crystal... all the way up to Skyfall.

Brian is, of course, best known for his work on Star Wars. Much of the material on the internet relates to this. The first half of the interview below provides an interesting insight into his involvement on the movie. However, it's clear that he is an awesomely talented artist who is more than capable of creating stunning pastiches and facsimiles of monumental sculpture from any historical period. Most impressively he creates these huge pieces very quickly. He and a colleague made the entire entrance section of the derelict set in Alien in under four weeks. He often uses polystyrene as this is both economical and light-weight.

Working on the environments for Alien

Set decoration for Sleepy Hollow

A statue for Excalibur

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Restored Georges Méliès' 'The Trip to the Moon'

We always knew that a hand-colour-tinted sister reel of Méliès' 1902 masterpiece The Trip to the Moon existed. However, it was believed lost until 1993 when a decrepit copy was found.  The colour version was painstakingly restored and missing sections were replaced with frames from the monochrome print and re-tinted by hand. It was premiered in 2011 with a soundtrack by the French electronica band Air (shades, I think, of pop score to the 1984 release of Metropolis).

It's an engaging 15 minute piece that still stands up today thanks to some innovative sleight-of-hand camera trickery, wonderful trompe l'oeil sets and bonkers costumes. Even as a 'knowing' twenty first century viewer who can spot all the tricks a mile off, it still manages to thrill and excite.

What I really like about it is the way it reflects a time when some aspects of science were still akin to magic in the public mind. The astronomers who travel to the lunar surface look more like wizards. Their projectile transport is manned by 'marines' - actually chorus girls in dancers' leggings - who are akin to magicians' assistants. The Pleiades stars are personified as women, Greek gods look down upon the explorers and the court of the Lunar king looks like John Martin's Balshazzer's palace.

Alas we seem to have lost our predisposition for the whimsical when it comes to branches of science beyond our ken.

Via feuilleton

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Not dead

Just a quick note to tell you all that I am not dead. I've been sorting out a house move and hope it'll all be over in a few weeks. In the meantime do keep an eye on my tumblr and the Cyberpunk 1984 project, both of which I am still updating daily.